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Latter-day Saint in Montana Serves by Sewing 1,400 Dresses for Children in Need

In the past five years, Mary Stephens' dresses have blessed children across the world

Young girls enjoy dresses made and donated by Mary Stephens of the Anaconda Montana Ward. Photo provided by Mary Stephens, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.
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Ryker Eggenberger,
Church News

Over the past five years, Mary Stephens from Anaconda, Montana, has sewn over 1,400 dresses for children in need.

Stephens’ service project started when she saw an article online that showed how to turn pillowcases into dresses.

“We had a ward meeting and did them there, and after that, I just liked to do it so much that I kept going,” Stephens said.

After trying it out with the ward, she continued to sew dresses every winter on her own, buying children’s sheets and pillowcases from local thrift stores and receiving fabric donations from her ward members to make the dresses.

“When I started doing it on my own, I would go to thrift stores and buy children’s sheets so they had cute patterns and colors on them,” Stephens said.

After she has the right fabric, Stephens buys elastics and ribbon and sews them into the shoulders of the dresses so they can be adjusted to different sizes. Then, once the dresses are completed, she sends them with anyone who will take them to other countries.

“The Lord always took care of me — I always ran into people who were going out of the country,” Stephens said.

Thanks to friends, missionaries leaving the country and humanitarian groups, Stephens has sent her dresses to be donated to children throughout the world, including Africa, India, Ecuador and Haiti.

“I just feel like I’m doing something to help someone in need,” she said.

Stephens is always searching for ways to use her talents to serve others. She has also sewn school bags for children and face masks for hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“She’s always been a service-oriented person,” said Tessie Oxnam, Stephens’ daughter.

Mary Stephens of the Anaconda Montana Ward shows some of her handmade dresses in June 2023. Photo provided by Mary Stephens, courtesy of Church News.All rights reserved.

Oxnam serves as Relief Society president in the Anaconda Montana Ward — the same ward her mother attends. She went on to say that her mother is a giving, loving person, and an example of service to everyone.

“She’s not one of those people that goes around telling everybody what she’s done. She just does it without wanting anything in return,” Oxnam said.

For Stephens, donating dresses is a simple act of service that helps her serve like the Savior did. She said, “He always did everything to help everyone. That’s just my little, tiny way of being able to do that.”

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